Section 128(1) of the Canadian Labour Code part II provides for the right to refuse work if you have reasonable cause to believe that a danger exists. Under section 122 (1) of the CLC, ´danger´ means any hazard, condition or activity that could reasonably be expected to be an imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person exposed to it before the hazard or condition can be corrected or the activity altered; 

“Refusal to work if danger” 

128. (1) Subject to this section, an employee may refuse to use or operate a machine or thing, to work in a place or to perform an activity, if the employee while at work has reasonable cause to believe that (a) the use or operation of the machine or thing constitutes a danger to the employee or to another employee; 
(b) a condition exists in the place that constitutes a danger to the employee; or 
(c) the performance of the activity constitutes a danger to the employee or to another employee. 

No refusal permitted in certain dangerous circumstances 

(2) An employee may not, under this section, refuse to use or operate a machine or thing, to work in a place or to perform an activity if 
(a) the refusal puts the life, health or safety of another person directly in danger; or 
(b) the danger referred to in subsection (1) is a normal condition of employment. 

[…]

Report to employer 

(6) An employee who refuses to use or operate a machine or thing, work in a place or perform an activity under subsection (1), or who is prevented from acting in accordance with that subsection by subsection (4), shall report the circumstances of the matter to the employer without delay. 

Select a remedy 

(7) Where an employee makes a report under subsection (6), the employee, if there is a collective agreement in place that provides for a redress mechanism in circumstances described in this section, shall inform the employer, in the prescribed manner and time if any is prescribed, whether the employee intends to exercise recourse under the agreement or this section. The selection of recourse is irrevocable unless the employer and employee agree otherwise. 

Investigation by employer

(7.1) The employer shall, immediately after being informed of a refusal under subsection (6), investigate the matter in the presence of the employee who reported it. Immediately after concluding the investigation, the employer shall prepare a written report setting out the results of the investigation.

Employer to take immediate action

(8) If, following its investigation, the employer agrees that a danger exists, the employer shall take immediate action to protect employees from the danger. The employer shall inform the work place committee or the health and safety representative of the matter and the action taken to resolve it.

Continued refusal 

(9) If the matter is not resolved under subsection (8), the employee may, if otherwise entitled to under this section, continue the refusal and the employee shall without delay report the circumstances of the matter to the employer and to the work place committee or the health and safety representative. 

Investigation of continued refusal

(10) If the work place committee receives a report under subsection (9), it shall designate, to investigate the matter immediately in the presence of the employee who reported it, two members of the committee, namely, one employee member from those chosen under paragraph 135.1(1)(b) and one employer member who is not from those chosen under that paragraph. If the health and safety representative receives a report under subsection (9), they shall immediately investigate the matter in the presence of the employee who reported it and a person who is designated by the employer.

Report

(10.1) Immediately after concluding the investigation, the members of the work place committee designated under subsection (10) or the health and safety representative shall provide a written report to the employer that sets out the results of the investigation and their recommendations, if any.

If more than one report 

(11) If more than one employee has made a report of a similar nature under subsection (9), those employees may designate one employee from among themselves to be present at the investigation. 

Absence of employee

(12) The employer, the members of a work place committee or the health and safety representative may proceed with their investigation in the absence of the employee who reported the matter if that employee or a person designated under subsection (11) chooses not to be present.

Decision of employer

(13) After receiving a report under subsection (10.1) or (10.2) and taking into account any recommendations in it, the employer, if it does not intend to provide additional information under subsection (10.2), shall make one of the following decisions:

  • (a) agree that a danger exists;
  • (b) agree that a danger exists but consider that the circumstances provided for in paragraph (2)(a) or (b) apply;
  • (c) determine that a danger does not exist.

Decision  — paragraph (13)(a)

(14) If the employer agrees that a danger exists under paragraph (13)(a), the employer shall take immediate action to protect employees from the danger. The employer shall inform the work place committee or the health and safety representative of the matter and the action taken to resolve it.

Decision  — paragraph (13)(b) or (c)

(15) If the employer makes a decision under paragraph (13)(b) or (c), the employer shall notify the employee in writing. If the employee disagrees with the employer’s decision, the employee is entitled to continue the refusal, subject to subsections 129(1.2), (1.3), (6) and (7).

Information to Minister

(16) If the employee continues the refusal under subsection (15), the employer shall immediately inform the Minister and the work place committee or the health and safety representative of its decision and the continued refusal. The employer shall also provide a copy of the report on the matter prepared under subsection (7.1) to the Minister along with a copy of any report referred to in subsection (10.1) or (10.2).

Employees on shift during work stoppage 

128.1 (1) Unless otherwise provided in a collective agreement or other agreement, employees who are affected by a stoppage of work arising from the application of section 127.1, 128 or 129 or subsection 145(2) are deemed, for the purpose of calculating wages and benefits, to be at work during the stoppage until work resumes or until the end of the scheduled work period or shift, whichever period is shorter. 

Employees on next shift 

(2) Unless otherwise provided in a collective agreement or other agreement, employees who are due to work on a scheduled work period or shift after a shift during which there has been a stoppage of work arising from the application of section 127.1, 128 or 129 or subsection 145(2) are deemed, for the purpose of calculating wages and benefits, to be at work during their work period or shift, unless they have been given at least one hour´s notice not to attend work. 

Alternative work 

(3) An employer may assign reasonable alternative work to employees who are deemed under subsection (1) or (2) to be at work. 

Repayment 

(4) Unless otherwise provided in a collective agreement or other agreement, employees who are paid wages or benefits under subsection (1) or (2) may be required by the employer to repay those wages and benefits if it is determined, after all avenues of redress have been exhausted by the employee who exercised rights under section 128 or 129, that the employee exercised those rights knowing that no circumstances existed that would warrant it.”